Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Stop Regulating Commerce Between Foreign Nations

If Congress and the President had a basic understanding of what powers the constitution’s commerce clause does and does not give them, this whole Iran fiasco could have been avoided.
For several months now, the Americans and their allies have been trading threats with Iran. What began with attacks on oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz – which the United States blamed on Iran – has escalated into the downing of drones by both sides, and then in July the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized a British ship in the Straits, in retaliation for Britain’s seizure of an Iranian vessel near the Straits of Gibraltar earlier in the month.

News sites are blaring with headlines about ‘War Drums,’ though the public should view this through a lens of scepticism. Rumours of war have always kept newsmen in business, and so they tend to get deployed whether there’s actually going to be a war or not. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of war out of hand.

All of this raises the question of how we got to the brink of war, and to answer that question, we need to go all the way back of the Constitution of 1787, in which Congress was given power ‘To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.’

Debate over the commerce clause usually centers on how broadly to read the phrase ‘among the several states.’ Occasionally, the political and legal debate will turn to the subject of regulating ‘commerce with foreign nations.’ Some people might naively think, as I once did, that imposing sanctions is an exercise of this power – and they would be right, if they were talking about the sorts of trade embargoes that were used in the early Republic, when, for instance, Jefferson signed the Embargo Acts to retaliate for Britain’s impressment of American sailors to fight in the Napoleonic War.

But that isn’t what modern sanctions – like the sanctions that lie at the heart of the Iran debacle – are doing. The Trump administration hasn’t simply decided that Americans must not trade with Iran, what it has done is imposed punishments for any firm, in any nation, which does business with Iran. What the government has now claimed is the power to regulate commerce between foreign nations.

Here is how this plays out in practice: Most countries still want to have normal trade relations with Iran, which, unlike the United States, did keep its end of the deal with respect to uranium enrichment. However, these countries’ merchant classes have generally refused to go along with the pro-Iranian policies of their governments, for fear of ending up like Meng Wanzhou.

Meng, you may recall, was the Chinese woman who was arrested in Canada last December, at the request of US authorities, on account of dealings she had carried on with Iran in her capacity as CFO of Huawei. She has been held in Canada ever since, as the authorities there dither about whether to extradite her to the United States to be tried for breaking American laws.

Keep in mind that Meng wasn’t actually in the United States when she committed any of her alleged crimes. She was just a Chinese businesswoman doing business with Iran. And one can only imagine how America would react if the roles were reversed – if, for example, an American travelling in Russia was arrested at the request of Chinese authorities for defying Chinese sanctions against Taiwan. Needless to say, the United States would not take well to such treatment.

And yet when the American authorities deal with China’s citizens this way, seemingly level-headed publications like The Federalist defend their modus operandi, with articles like this one accusing China of “bullying” Canada by making (unsuccessful) demands for Meng’s release, and defending Canada’s role with such hackneyed prose as the following:

“The Canadian government has tried very hard to explain to Beijing that Meng’s arrest was not politically driven.... The [U.S.] Justice Department launched a criminal probe into Huawei’s dealings in Iran in April 2017. The arrest warrant for Meng was issued in August by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and Meng was charged with “conspiracy to defraud multiple international institutions.” To U.S. authorities, arresting Meng in Canada was a natural choice, because Meng stopped traveling to the United States in 2017.”

This would all make a bit more sense if the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York somehow had jurisdiction over alleged frauds committed in China and Iran. Under the Constitution of 1787, it doesn’t, but as that constitution wasn’t written with global imperialism in mind, the people who presently run this country have seen fit to abandon it.

China’s leaders, being as commercialist as they are, ultimately decided to let the matter slide rather than jeopardize Sino-American trade by responding in kind. Needless to say, it won’t always be this way; the Chinese know that, a few years hence, America won’t be the largest economy any more, and it will be their turn to make the demands.

In the meantime, the biggest losers are the Iranians. Although most countries do not share America’s antipathy toward Iran, few international corporations are willing to risk the wrath of the global hegemon. When a company must choose between severing ties with Iran, and ceasing to do business in the United States, raw economics determines that the ‘indispensable nation’ will come out on top.

This is why Ron Paul has been saying for so long that sanctions are ‘an act of war.’ For one country to be cut off from the rest of the world by the threat of violence against anybody of any nationality, anywhere on Earth, who dares to treat it like a normal country, is an attack on the sovereignty of not just one foreign nation, but all of them.

But America’s days of acting this way are numbered. The Americans have long depended on the rest of the world’s demand for paper dollars to keep them in the number one economic spot even though they manufacture few tangible goods. But with their liberal use of sanctions, the Americans are sawing through their own perch.

More and more countries are dedollarizing in order to make it harder for the United States to claim jurisdiction over their commerce – and this process will sooner or later result in a disastrous shock to the American economy, with severe inflation as dollars lose their appeal abroad and come flooding back home. And all of it, perhaps, would have been avoidable, if only America’s rulers had taken their constitutional limits more seriously, rather than trying to regulate commerce between foreign nations.

America’s founders fought the War of Independence in order to gain for their new country a “separate and equal status” with other nations. Hegemony was never part of the plan. A return to constitution government requires that America recognize that it is a nation among nations, not an overlord among vassals, and act accordingly.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Remembering 1969

No matter how far off the rails present-day America goes, there are still moments in our national story that will never lose their brightness. July 20th, 1969, is one of these.
This blog has been criticized for its pessimism, something which shouldn’t surprise anybody when I call myself “Twilight Patriot” and identify myself as someone “with eyes open wide enough to see the coming nightfall.” Nonetheless, due attention should be given, from time to time, to the sort of moments that came to define American greatness – the things on which I am so dismayed to see the curtain being pulled down.

Although I despise the civilization that presently surrounds me, the one thing about America that I will never cease to love is its history, and today, 20 July 2019, marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of the great moments in that history.

People have a lot of opinions about the Apollo Program and the moon landings. Were they a hoax, a waste of time and money, a brash offshoot of the cold-war rivalry with the Russians? I will not waste time debating whether they were a hoax, and as for whether Apollo was a waste of money or a minor spinoff of the cold war, those notions can be laid to rest simply by thinking about how 1969 will be viewed in the coming centuries: my belief is that the fact that men walked on the moon will be remembered, and the surrounding politics and economics will be forgotten.

And that is the beauty of it. Exploration and discovery need no validation outside of themselves. From the dawn of time, men have been venturing to go beyond the next hill, to climb the unclimbed summit, and to see that which no one had seen before. People will remember the moon landings as a time when mankind did such a thing. The bootprints on the moon, and the knowledge that the number of men who have walked there is no longer zero, but twelve, will endure beyond the fall of our civilization.

I am not a techno-utopian, and I will not wax eloquent about how space travel is the solution for anybody’s problems here on earth. But that isn’t what exploration has ever been about. The awareness that someone is out there, pushing the boundary into the unknown and sharing that experience with the rest of us here at home, is enough to satisfy me, as, I am sure, it is enough to satisfy millions of other Americans, especially the young and the young at heart.

I don’t think that the government ought to be spending large sums of money on a new space race, nor do I think that there is any chance of a return to the moon in the near future along the lines that the Trump administration is promising. The culture and politics of the 1960s are those of a bygone era. If there is to be another round of adventuring, let private adventurers lead it and fund it themselves – there are plenty who are willing to do so.

Right now, American civilization is on its downslope. As I have explained elsewhere on this blog, I expect the next half century to be a time of brutal and well-deserved decline. And the people that are left to pick up the pieces will remember the fallen regime as one of the biggest human rights abusers that the world has ever seen – as well they should, because to do otherwise would be to insult the memory of its victims.

But I hope that, in times to come, as the American collapse takes the place of the fall of Rome as the historical archetype of debauchery and excess, America’s earlier eras will retain their brightness, and revolutionary America will be a model to be looked up to, as was the Roman Republic. In our day, when something is compared to Rome, we know from the context whether to speaker has in mind the sprawling empire of Nero and Domitian, or the city-state of Poplicola and Cincinattus; in the future, when men and women speak of America, I hope that the listeners will likewise know when the country of Washington and Jefferson is being referred to.

And there will also, I hope, be a place for the America of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

Every nation is born in a valiant struggle for freedom, and every empire meets its end in an orgy of debauchery and mass injustice. But the Americans will always be remembered as the nation that, in the intervening years, sent a few of its bravest men to walk around on the moon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book Review: Twilight's Last Gleaming

John Michael Greer’s novel about the sudden end of American hegemony should be of interest to anyone who shares my conviction that the present order in this country neither can, nor ought to, continue much longer.
An empire does not admit to itself when it is in decline. No – that realization has to be imposed from without, and often quite bluntly. This, at least, is the theme that John Michael Greer runs with in Twilight’s Last Gleaming, his novel of how the American empire might fall in the not-too-distant future.

Not everybody thinks of the United States as an empire, but in Greer’s eyes, you need to be an empire in order to consume a third of the world’s natural resources despite having only 5 percent of its population. And Greer gives America’s leaders credit where credit is due for managing the empire efficiently – rather than governing every colony directly like Britain did, at a huge financial and human cost, we just keep troops positioned strategically around the world, ready to pull a regime change when someone adopts economic policies that aren’t to our liking.

Dammit, we need that oil.’ The US President’s remark to his advisers when he realizes that Tanzania has turned to a Chinese firm rather than the Americans to develop a new offshore oilfield pretty much sets the stage for what this book is about. The CIA and the Defence Department get to work plotting regime change, without realizing that this time will be different, because with China giving behind-the-scenes aid to the Tanzanians, the Americans must face what they haven’t faced since 1941 – a conflict between equals.

I won’t bother myself about spoilers in this review, because Greer, in his book, didn’t bother to create any suspense – the reader can see each plot element unfolding a mile away, from the moment the Chinese smuggle cruise missiles into Tanzania in ordinary shipping containers. The American aircraft carrier ends up where carriers will end up as soon as they see their first real combat since 1945. The F-35s go where a competent enemy is bound to send any aircraft designed with commercial rather than military concerns at the fore. And the American ground troops, reduced to fighting without air superiority or decent logistics, end up in POW camps.

All of this, by the way, is only the first third of Greer’s book. The rest deals with the impact of the defeat on the American home front, and with the new international order that arises once American hegemony is dead and buried. Passages of the novel are told from perspectives in America, Tanzania, Kenya, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia… you get the idea. One thing you need to be warned about is that, with the possible exception of the Russian president, Greer’s characters are completely forgettable. They are flat as flat can be, within a week of reading the book, I had forgotten all but two of their names.

Where Greer excels is in what is usually known as world-building, though I hesitate to call it that, as sketching out possible futures for the real world is a much more intellectually demanding task than inventing fantasy settings. And Greer’s futures are believable. America will keep playing hegemon until someone makes us stop – you can’t get by without a little bullying when you consume more resources than you produce. And sometime within the next few decades, we will get worsted by one of the world’s ascendant powers, of which China is chief.

It’s toward the end that, in my opinion, the book wanders off into fantasy. The idea that, in our day and age, a constitutional convention might remake America with only failed interference from the President, and no interference at all from the Supreme Court, is quite na├»ve – in the real world, power does not give itself up voluntarily, no matter what the text of the constitution has to say about the matter. If Washington’s power is to be broken, as Greer thinks it will, then it will take resistance much fiercer than anyone in modern America is willing to give.

Twilight’s Last Gleaming. The novel is not, by any means, a perfect map for the future, but it does accurately describe a lot of the unpleasant things that will happen when the American empire learns the hard way that the world is no longer its own to rule..

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Letter of July 2019


EDITOR:

I recall a time when conservatives such as myself derided liberals for the cult of personality and mindless adulation which they heaped upon President Obama. And we liked to see such praise turned on its head, so when the Utah painter Jon McNaughton made a name for himself by painting Obama trampling the constitution, burning the constitution, or fiddling while Washington went up in flames, we clamored for more.

I thought that people on my own side would never make such idols out of their politicians. But it turns out that just eight years later, things have come full circle.

Now, instead of Obama, Mr. McNaughton usually paints Donald Trump: Trump guarding the border, Trump draining the swamp, not one but two paintings of Trump on a football field, defying the whole NFL to respect the flag. And now there is a scene of Trump on the same White House steps where Obama had stood a few years earlier, except now, instead of trampling the constitution, Trump has his foot on the head of a snake!

 Some internet commentators replied with confused attempts to link the scene to the familiar “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. But people like myself, with a little knowledge of biblical symbolism, saw exactly what was meant: McNaughton is saying that Donald Trump is the Messiah.

Conservatives need to be realistic about President Trump. He didn’t defund Planned Parenthood, build the wall, or repeal Obamacare back when his party controlled Congress. And the watered-down tax cut of December 2017 does not a Messiah make.

I am still going to vote for Trump next year, because I believe that his party is marginally better than the alternative. But those who lionize him ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Monday, July 8, 2019

How to Tell if Something is Fascist

I didn’t expect that Barrack Obama and Emanuel Macron would turn out to be fascists. But if we take the Left’s rhetoric to its logical conclusion, that is indeed what has happened.
When you hear the name ‘Emmanuel Macron,’ you probably recall that he’s the President of France. Perhaps you remember how he beat Marine LePen by a two-to-one margin in the second round of the 2017 presidential election, or how he got hitched to future First Lady Brigitte Macron – they met when he was 15 years old and she was a 39-year-old teacher at his high school; his parents sent him to a different school in an attempt to break off the relationship, but to no avail, and after Macron turned 18, Brigitte divorced her husband to marry him.

If you’re a right-winger like myself, then Macron probably comes across as an effete socialist, out of touch with the working class and woefully unfit to confront Europe’s existential problems. What he definitely isn’t is a fascist.

Unless you take the American left’s logic seriously.

You may recall that President Trump’s Independence Day celebration, with tanks and fighter jets, elicited howl of protest from the leftist media, who denounced the spectacle as militaristic, authoritarian, and fascist. As some of us still remember, planning for this show began after President Trump saw a military parade in Macron’s France and decided he wanted to do something similar in his own country.

Also, in France, the tanks got to actually drive down the streets, while Trump settled for static tanks due to fears that their treads would damage Washington’s weak, swampy roadways. So if, as the media assert, this kind of spectacle means that a nation’s leader is a fascist, then not only is Emmanual Macron a fascist, but he is an even bigger fascist than the prototype fascist, Donald Trump.

As it turns out, President Macron is not the only left-winger who has suddenly found himself redefined as a fascist in this new sense of the word. As is known to everyone who hasn’t spent the last two years hiding under a rock, Donald Trump’s desire to enforce the border means that he is a fascist. Because enforcing the border means locking people up when they cross it illegally. And some of those illegal border crossers are children, and there is nothing more fascist than children in cages.

Except that none of these policies were started by President Trump. Illegal aliens are being treated the same way today that they were under the Obama Administration. Trump talks a lot more about on cracking down on illegal immigration, but policy-wise, little has changed between the two. Obviously, during the Obama years the detention camps were seldom reported on, and nobody called Obama a fascist for his halfway efforts to enforce the border – halfway efforts upon which, I must remark, Trump has scarcely improved.

But that was before Donald Trump became president. Border enforcement is something that Trump talks about a lot, therefore, it is a fascist thing to do. Which, if we’re being honest, must retroactively make Barrack Obama a fascist.

George Orwell, as you may recall, was fond of griping about the decrepit state of political discourse in his time. In 1946, he lamented that “the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’”

It seems that now, some seventy-odd years later, the American Left has gotten around to rectifying that situation. “Fascism” no longer has no meaning – rather, it refers to whatever a particular ‘Someone Not Desirable’ is doing at the moment. Which, depending on the phase of the current news cycle, may include half-assed border enforcement, or giving a speech in front of a couple tanks.

Which makes Barrack Obama and Emmanuel Macron fascists, too.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

What I am Celebrating on Independence Day

Today, I will honor the memory of Washington, Jefferson, and the other brave men who waged the War of Independence. But I will not insult the Founders by claiming that the form of government they established is the same one that exists at the present day.
My understanding of Independence Day has changed a lot over the years.

As a very small child, it was the day when I would go with my family to a vantage point in the Arizona desert to watch the fireworks appear. I did not yet know that fireworks were man-made, it seemed to me that they were just a natural atmospheric phenomenon that occurred each year on the Fourth of July.

As a slightly older boy, I got to have the experience of celebrating the holiday in Indiana, where it’s impossible to overlook the fact that fireworks are artificial, because everybody – even the children – has the pleasure of setting them off themselves.

And besides the fireworks, my childhood Independence Days were celebrated in the usual way with parades, barbecues, and family gatherings, of which I have many fond memories. As a teenager I became aware that public readings of the Declaration of Independence had at one point in history been part of the retinue, but my attempts to reintroduce the practice at our barbecues inspired little more than quaint amusement.

Most Americans see the Fourth of July as a celebration of their flag, their military, their government, and some vague concept of national unity. But to me, Independence Day is now a celebration of one thing: the Declaration of Independence.

Not the flag. Not the troops. Not even the constitution. Only the document that says that when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce us under absolute Despotism, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for our future security.

And, of course, Independence Day is also a day for celebrating the heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, Paul Revere and Joseph Warren and Daniel Morgan and all the other brave men who fought in the War of Independence to make those words a reality.

The first Fourth of July wasn’t about flags – the colonists had just done away with the Union Jack, and weren’t even agreed on what their new flag would look like. It wasn’t about the troops, some of whom were fighting on their side of the war, and some of whom weren’t. It wasn’t about a certain form of government, so much as their right to break down and reestablish governments when they felt the need to do so. And the spirit of that first July Fourth was flatly opposed to any ideal of national unity.

Rather, that Fourth of July was about freedom and independence and local self-rule, and the right of the elected colonial legislatures to break away from an oppressive central government that wouldn’t recognize their rights.

Some people, when they give their speeches today, will laud the Founding Fathers for setting up a written constitution that has endured for 231 years and is protecting the rights of Americans even today. I will not be doing so.

I am not going to pretend that the Founders gave Congress the power to regulate every aspect of American life, or that they intended to set up a welfare state in which a quarter of the country’s collective income is redirected to somebody other than the one who earned it. I will not claim that the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world has somehow managed that feat while adhering to constitutional protections of defendants’ rights. I will not claim that the Founders gave the president the power to unilaterally start wars anywhere in the world, or that they gave five judges on the Supreme Court the power to rewrite the constitution at will, and to veto all state laws of which they disapprove.

I will not insult the Founders by claiming that the government we have now is the same one that they created. Rather, I will give them credit for what they actually did – waging a successful war of independence, and setting up a good constitution that lasted as long as the people were willing to fight to defend it.

But the Founders did not set up a constitution capable of protecting our liberties for all time without any further need for rebellions or wars of independence. They did not even try to do such a thing. They were wiser than that. They knew that revolutions are necessary from time to time.

And they knew that, while the Constitution may dabble in checks and balances, the Declaration of Independence is the Check of Checks, for no mere words on a page can constrain the ambitions of aspiring despots when the common people are unwilling to bear arms against a government that acknowledges no limits on its power.

Today, I am celebrating a time in my country’s history when men were braver than they are today. I am honouring the 6,824 patriots who fell in battle during the Revolutionary War, and the nearly 20,000 more who died of disease and starvation on rotting British prison ships in New York Harbour.

And I will do what I can to keep a memory of that time alive, in the hopes that somewhere, someday, our country’s founding principle – that loyalty to one’s government is never more important than the human rights which that government was meant to defend – will once again find widespread acceptance.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Thoughts of a Deficit Whisperer

Trillion dollar deficits have an upside that the other injustices of modern America don’t – they carry within themselves the seeds of their own destruction. As a deficit whisperer, I’ve done my best to make a timetable for when out-of-control spending will bring the whole rotten system tumbling down.
Classical liberals such as myself have a lot to complain about when we look at how America is governed. Of all the things that rankle us – be they endless wars, judicial despotism, bureaucratic overreach, mass incarceration, what Planned Parenthood does, or any of the other rampant injustices in our society – deficit spending stands out as the thing which contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

In other words, unlike most of the awful things the US government does, deficit spending will actually crash the system if it keeps going on like this. And because I am passionate about all those other injustices, I can watch each uptick of the deficit looking forward to the coming denouement.

So what does it mean to be a deficit whisperer? It means I pay careful attention to where the deficit is now and where it is heading in the future, as I try to make a timetable for when it brings the whole rotten system tumbling down – which is bound to happen once the dollar starts looking weak in the eyes of foreign countries, and America loses the ability to mooch off of other countries’ workforces by exporting dollars.

Back to the present situation: Sometime in the past week, the US federal budget deficit exceeded a trillion dollars. I can’t say for certain when it happened; usdebtclock.org’s estimate of the deficit jumped from $999 billion to $1.007 trillion overnight on Sunday when they updated their source data. But whatever the particulars, the outcome is that trillion dollar deficits are back in America, and this time, they are here to stay.

Unlike under Obama, when the trillion dollar deficit was a temporary measure taken during an economic downturn, the Trump deficit has come during a boom time, with every indication of being the new normal. Indeed, if present trends continue, the deficit will reach $2 trillion less than three years from today!

But numbers like a billion and a trillion only have meaning when you put them in context, and for that, the all-important number is the debt-to-GDP ratio. For the US, it’s currently 105.6%, but it’s forecast to reach 121.5% four years in the future. From then on, we can expect a steady rise. My own prediction is that sometime before 2035, debt will reach double the GDP.

And then comes the economic meltdown. It probably won’t be a matter of the US defaulting on the debt, as there is no need to default when a country can print its own currency. Rather, foreign traders will simply lose confidence in the dollar once they realize that the US can only remain solvent by rapidly inflating its currency.

This will spark a chain reaction, as the dollar will lose most of its value once international trade has moved on to some other currency. Trillions of US dollars will be shipped home in short order, leading to severe inflation, an end to most imports, and an economic collapse worse than the Great Depression. I predict that, due to inflation and economic decline, the price of oil will reach $1000/barrel sometime before 2045.

The central government will prove unable to meet the challenges posed by the aging population and the end of material security and military power. Without the ability to maintain order or keep the goods flowing, the regime in Washington is bound to fall. I predict that by 2055, the United States will have broken up into separate countries, putting an end to the imperialistic wars, judicial despotism, bureaucratic overreach, mass incarceration, and taxpayer funded abortions.

It will be brutal, but it will be worth it. And once the people have been rudely awakened from the state of thoughtless torpor in which they are presently maintained by their endless comforts and amusements, then maybe, just maybe, one of those new countries will evolve into something that resembles the kind of republic that the Founders intended for America to become.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Iran Didn't Attack Those Oil Tankers

The assertion, in the absence of evidence, that Iran is responsible for yesterday’s attacks, should not be believed. Iran has no motive to attack oil tankers, but the Trump Administration has plenty of motives to blame Iran.
Yesterday morning, two oil tankers were attacked with explosives in the Gulf of Oman. One was the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous; the other was Norway’s Front Altair. Not a lot of reliable information is out yet – sources disagree as to whether the weapons were torpedoes or limpet mines, and whether the ships sank, or were merely abandoned after catching fire.

There also isn’t any agreement as to who did it. Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, immediately blamed Iran, saying that no one else in the region has the ability to carry out such a sophisticated attack. Iran vociferously denied it.

All of this raises an important question: why would Iran do such a thing? The State Department’s assertion that Iran was responsible provides no evidence and no motive, only repeating old accusations of “forty years of aggression against freedom-loving nations.”

But since I believe that evidence and motive are important in solving mysteries like this one, I will write a little about why I believe that Iran isn’t responsible, describe three other possible perpetrators that did have a motive to commit the attacks, and, finally, discuss the Trump Administration’s motive for blaming Iran.

Iran’s main foreign policy goal is to be left alone by the United States – something that is easier said than done. For instance, it took years of negotiating with the Obama Administrating to get JCPOA, a promise of sanctions relief in exchange for an end to Iran’s uranium enrichment. But since the deal was never ratified in the US Senate, President Trump was able to rescind it shortly after taking office. This prompted outbursts of anti-American anger in Iran, and the centrifuges were turned back on. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration is acting as if Iran is the aggressor.

If it still seems like Iran is overreacting, just remember that when the US government imposes sanctions on a foreign country, it doesn’t just ban Americans from trading with that country, it bans everybody from trading with that country. You may remember how Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese corporate executive, was arrested in Canada last December, at the United States’ request, for the crime of trading with Iran.

The originalists in my audience may recall that the constitution does not give Congress power to regulate commerce between foreign nations, but that was back in 1787. Nowadays, America is Emperor of the World, constitution be damned.

And blaming the oil tanker attacks on Iran makes no sense when one considers that one of the tankers, Kokuka Courageous, was owned by Japan, a country whose prime minister was in Tehran at the time, discussing ways to circumvent the American sanctions. Why would Iran attack one of the few countries that is willing to stand up for its rights?

And in case any of my readers have misconstrued my previous post about how the United States would lose a war with Iran, I will repeat that I meant “lose” in the sense that, if war broke out, the Iranians would keep their independence and inflict more damage on America than the Americans are willing to bear. But the majority of casualties, especially civilians, will still be Iranians. Iran has no incentive to make itself the aggressor in a war that would get millions of its people killed.

Having explained why I believe that Iran is not to blame, the question becomes one of who actually has a motive to attack those tankers? In other words, cui bono?

It could simply be ordinary middle eastern terrorists. Perhaps they were funded by Iran, though they certainly weren’t taking orders from the Iranian government. Perhaps they were funded by Saudi Arabia. They would have been acting out of general anti-western sentiment, driven by anger over foreign involvement in the middle east, rather than any sort of coherent grand strategy.

On the other hand, it could have been a conspiracy on the part of oil speculators to drive up the price of crude. Oil futures surged 4 percent on the day of the attacks, and investors with their money leveraged properly would stand to make a huge profit.

Or it could have been a false-flag attack by the US to gain a pretext for war with Iran. While I am listing this as a possibility, I don’t believe that it is more likely than the other two.

What, then, is the State Department’s motive for blaming Iran? Inertia is part of it: enmity with Iran has been a staple of US foreign policy for decades, and old habits die hard. Also, it gives Donald Trump an opportunity to look tough, by breathing out threats against Iran should the aggression continue.

Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are war hawks who want an increased American presence in the middle east. Even if they can’t convince Trump to invade Iran – and at this point I think that they can’t, because Trump knows better than to start the next Vietnam War – they’re still on the lookout for reasons to escalate things and deploy more American forces near the Iranian border.

Finally, the media coverage of these events – in which President Trump gets to be the good guy for a change – is a welcome relief from the constant focus on his administration’s domestic scandals and failure to secure the border.

In conclusion: Iran had no motive to attack the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Other people did have motives to do so. And the Trump administration definitely has motives for blaming Iran – but don’t bet on Mr. Trump moving on to open hostilities, because if it came to war, America stands to lose.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Escaping the Left-Right Axis

America’s current political spectrum, and the mainstream conservative and liberal camps, cover a very small portion of all possible ideologies. To truly understand out times, it is necessary to escape the left-right axis, dump traditional media, and instead follow an array of eclectic blogs.
If you have been reading Twilight Patriot for a while, you will probably have noticed that I don’t fit neatly into the conservative camp of American politics. I voted for Donald Trump and will do so again, but I also think he’s a windbag. I disagree with the Republican Party’s denial of climate change, but I also think that anyone who votes Democrat because of that issue is being played for a fool.

I have criticized the British people for not rioting on account of the delays in implementing Brexit, and I have criticized right-wing Americans for not having a revolution – violent or otherwise – over the abortion issue. I admire George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Ron Paul, and Vladimir Putin.

I think that conservatives ought to dump their islamophobia. I despise the House of Saud, but have a favourable opinion of Iran. I look forward to the collapse of the US dollar. And I believe that the three biggest moral abominations of modern America are abortion, medicating children for ADHD, and what the Federal Reserve does – in that order.

If you tried to place my ideology on the traditional political spectrum, you would probably conclude that I’m somewhere on the extreme right wing. The trouble is that, on the left-right axis, the “far right” includes both libertarians and fascists. And the statement: “he’s somewhere between a libertarian and a fascist” has very little meaning.

The truth is that I escaped the left-right axis a while ago. And the fact that my beliefs are uncategorizable is a good thing.

The opinions of the modern left, right, and center – in other words, what you’ll find on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox – are a tiny subset of all the political opinions that have ever been held throughout human history. And anyone who calls people like me extremists – that is, anyone who thinks that the only legitimate opinion is some sort of mixing together of the opinions that are commonly held in his own small piece of spacetime – is an idiot.

One reason I think this way is that I was raised to study the classics, and to be part of an intellectual tradition that bestrides millenia of history, next to which the combined viewpoints of Fox, CNN, and MSNBC look rather puny. But another reason is that, as I grew up, I learned to ignore mainstream news sites and instead follow an array of eclectic blogs.

When I was younger, I got my news from websites with fairly standard conservative viewpoints – the Drudge Report, Fox News, and the Federalist. Soon afterward, I started reading liberal sites too – Slate and the Huffington Post. But my opinions were, for the most part, aligned with the Federalist – a fairly standard set of doctrinaire conservative views.

Then I found Matt Walsh. Walsh writes for The Matt Walsh Blog – an aptly-named site if there ever was one – and he’s a right-winger who tells it like it is. Unlike some of the writers at the Federalist, Walsh is willing to say, over and over again, and quite bluntly, exactly why it is that conservatives should seek no middle ground on the abortion issue. Or on sexual liberation, or the welfare state, and so forth.

Rather than reviewing the latest Game of Thrones episode, Walsh just makes a straightforward case that Christians shouldn’t watch Game of Thones – and they also shouldn’t send their children to the public schools – and that they should go to a traditionalist church whose pastor makes them feel guilty about their sins, because modern Christianity isn’t judgmental enough.

According to Walsh, America is not, currently, a great nation – and it isn’t going to have its decline reversed – and it won’t split into multiple countries, because people these days are far too lazy to fight another civil war. Most conservatives are, on account of their apathy, just as guilty for their country’s situation as liberals are. And indifference, not hatred, is the vice that has done our civilization in.

You don’t get that perspective from Fox News, or Breitbart, or the Federalist.

Also, Mr. Walsh is the only right-wing personality I follow who talks about the damage being done to American children by ADHD medication – how child-drugging causes reduced growth, personality changes, psychosis, and permanent deficits in the same neurotransmitters whose concentration the drug is boosting in the short term.

The upshot is that a little over ten percent of America’s young men (and 3 to 5 percent of young women) are going through life with neurotransmitter deficits whose effects are basically unknown, and most news outlets, including the Federalist (which has published about a dozen stories each day since 2013 without mentioning the issue) have nothing to say.

Screw the Federalist.

Matt Walsh has done a lot to help people wake up to the fact that the realities of modern America are much darker than mainstream conservatives want to admit. Even so, his effects on my own intellectual development were limited by the fact that I immediately agreed with almost everything he said – to the point that the biggest issue we don’t agree on is that of emotional support animals (I am in favour; Walsh is generally opposed).

There is only so much you can do with a blog where you agree with nearly everything the proprietor has to say. That’s why the truly fun blogs are a mixture of the self-evidently true and the off-the-wall crazy – ideas which I will almost never share but which, on further thought, I very occasionally end up agreeing with.

A good example of a “fun blog” is Ecosophia – the website of the Archdruid John Michael Greer. Greer is an environmentalist, but he’s far too wise to support the Democrats on that account, and he realizes that both parties are fully committed to the same unsustainable industrial lifestyle. He criticizes all segments of modern society, but especially the Left, for their misplaced faith in abstract thinking, their insistence that the world must conform to their desires, and their dismissal of the experiences of people whom they consider to be beneath them. He takes a moderate view on the things usually called “social issues,” is against globalization, and is a mild supporter of Donald Trump.

An Ecosophia post on the ongoing rise of a unique, non-Western civilization in Russia led me to discover the websites of Dmitri Orlov and the Saker. Orlov and the Saker are both Russians whose families fled their homeland during the Communist years, so that the two men ended up watching the recent transformations of the motherland from the outside. Both are patriots with favourable opinions of Vladimir Putin, whom they see as one of the few national leaders willing to keep his country independent of the American empire – which they see as a militaristic pirate state which is desperately trying to stave off its impending collapse by forcing other countries to accept its increasingly worthless currency.

I do not agree with everything that Orlov and the Saker have to say – I dislike their whitewashing of Russia’s treatment of the Poles, I don’t share their belief that America was founded on unbridled individualism, and I reject the assertion that American foreign policy is controlled by Zionists in Tel Aviv. Nor, for that matter, do Orlov and the Saker always agree with each other: for instance, Orlov is irreligious, while for the Saker, defending the true Orthodox faith against the claims of the heretical Papists and Protestants is more important than any of the mere political controversies that grace his blog.

Nevertheless, reading these authors and internalizing their ideas – whether I end up agreeing with them or not – has brought me a much greater awareness of the alternatives to Western Europe’s (collapsing) civilizational model, the magnitude of the national turnaround that President Putin has achieved since he took power, and the role of American militarism in propping up a doomed financial system amid the ongoing struggle for dedollarization.

If you want to escape the left-right axis like I did, then I recommend reading all of these blogs, and more. Seek out people like Matt Walsh, John Michael Greer, Dmitri Orlov, and the Saker. Be eclectic. Find websites that make you think, that don’t fit into doctrinaire conservatism (or doctrinaire anything), and that don’t flatter their audience into feeling good about their unsustainable lifestyle.

In conclusion: A man who holds who holds only mainstream opinions is a man who never thinks.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Letter of May 2019

EDITOR:

A new word has appeared in international news lately – dedollarization. It refers to the process whereby foreign countries, especially Russia and China, stop using US dollars in their trade. Dedollarization may seem like a bad thing to those in the ‘Make America Great Again’ crowd, but I will argue that it isn’t. Rather, I see dedollarization – not tariffs or a trade war – as the only way to get rid of the trade deficit and bring more jobs back to America.

America has the world’s largest trade deficit because it consumes more than it produces. Under the old system of the gold standard, trade deficits were impossible – exports had to balance imports, or else a country would run out of gold. But then, the Federal Reserve gained the ability to print an unlimited amount of dollars and export its paper currency in lieu of actual goods. Thus, exports no longer had to balance imports, and there could be a net loss of jobs overseas.

In effect, what happened was that the Federal Reserve replaced the American worker. Foreign laborers now do America’s work, in exchange for dollars that the Fed has created out of thin air and lent to the government or to monied elites. Ordinary Americans are left out in the cold.

But America will lose its ability to consume more than it produces when other countries dedollarize. And I will not be lamenting the end of American hegemony. If being an ordinary country means that America must rely on its own workers to make its own goods again, I see that as a good thing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

America Would Lose A War With Iran

The recent wars of the United States have all been fought against weak countries, and even so, results have been mixed. If the Americans lose their calm and take on a tougher foe like Iran, the results would be catastrophic.
The US government has recently started another round of its usual sabre-rattling towards Iran, this time going so far as to announce a troop buildup in the Middle East. The war hawks in the administration haven’t gotten their way yet, but that won’t stop the President from bragging about how he could win a war, if he needed to; see, for instance, his recent tweet:

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

All of this raises the question: is this just bluster, or does Mr. Trump think he could actually put an end to Iran?

My own belief is that America would lose a war with Iran.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about a nuclear war, in which the United States could turn any country, Iran included, into glass – the only trouble is that, while Iran itself may or may not have a nuclear deterrent, Russia and China certainly do, and they would not tolerate an American first strike against their neighbor.

So that leaves two options for what America could do to Iran: Either bomb Iran with conventional weapons from a safe distance, or else invade on the ground.

The trouble with bombing is that, unlike the Taliban or ISIS, Iran has effective anti-aircraft weapons, especially the Russian S300 surface-to-air missile system. Missile for missile, it is not as good as America’s Patriot SAMs, but the Russian missiles are cheaper (hence more abundant) and fully up to the job of area denial.

The United States is no longer capable of the sort of logistics seen in World War II, where tens of thousands of combat aircraft were produced and shot down every year. Instead, the current arsenal, which is the result of decades of production and no significant combat losses, consists of about 900 F-16s, 300 A-10s, 200 each of F-15s and F-22s, 100 F-35s, and smaller numbers of other planes.

When fighting the Taliban and ISIS, more aircraft were lost to mechanical failure than to enemy action. That won’t be the case with Iran. America is no longer capable, either psychologically or economically, of losing aircraft every day.

And any plan to invade Iran with ground troops would be dead in the water. Ever since the German offensive was turned back at the Ardennes, the US military has been operating under the Jupiter Complex – every operation involves raining fire on the enemy out of the sky. Without air superiority, US ground forces can do nothing.

Add to that the fact that Iran has twice the population of Afghanistan or Iraq, a large and mountainous country to defend, and better equipment and training than the weak enemies which America is accustomed to fighting, and you can see how much worse this would turn out than any of the previous middle eastern wars.

Granted, American technological superiority is still great enough that Iran would lose more men in every battle. But the Iranians can afford this – they would, after all, be defending their families, homeland, and religion, while for America, Iran would be just one of the many far-away places which the average citizen can’t find on a map, but in which the military must spread itself in order to defend America’s global hegemony.

And then we need to look at Iran’s offensive capabilities. The Iranian navy has purchased Klub missiles from Russia; these high-tech cruise missiles can evade radar and most other defenses by flying just 20 meters above the water. They can strike both land and sea targets, and can be launched from any military vessel – or out of a shipping container on a civilian ship – or from a truck, or a warehouse, or a hole in the ground – you get the idea.

One hit from a Klub missile would be enough to sink an American carrier, which is how you can know that tensions are hottest when America’s aircraft carriers sail out of a 500 km range from Iran.

But even if the Americans manage to keep their carriers afloat (at the cost of keeping them too far from the land battles to offer much support) the entire gulf coast of Saudi Arabia would be open to attack. The infrastructure necessary for shipping oil to the US would be demolished, and the bottom would fall out of the American economy.

And even though the Iranians wouldn’t be able to get their own vessels anywhere near American shores, there is no way to know that they don’t already have a few klub missiles sitting in automated containers at the bottom of the Potomac estuary, waiting for the command to empty the ballast tanks, pop up to the surface like corks, and pull off a quick decapitation strike against Washington DC, just as the politicians are settling in for another day of business-as-usual.

In conclusion, going to war with Iran is a very bad idea. And it’s also completely unnecessary. The Iranians do not want a war – they aren’t suicidal, and as I said before, they stand to take a lot more casualties than we would.

And while they hate us, it isn’t like we haven’t given them reasons to. The CIA meddled in Iranian politics for decades before the Revolution of 1979. And while Americans frequently talk about the time when the Soviet Union downed KAL-007 with the loss of all passengers and crew, they rarely hear that in 1988, the Americans did the same thing to Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, when a missile cruiser shot down an Airbus A300 that had ignored orders to identify itself, even though it was in Iranian territory at the time.

Americans will almost never hear about this, but every Iranian schoolchild knows the story – and the anniversary of the event, July 3, is a traditional day for chanting “Death To America!”

So America isn’t that innocent. And Iran isn’t that guilty. Their human rights record looks poor by European standards, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what Saudi Arabia, America’s favourite middle eastern country, manages to get away with. The Iranians will execute people for drug trafficking and various sex crimes, but they don’t behead teenagers for showing up to protests. And they don’t hide bodies in their embassies. And they didn’t wait until 2017 to let women drive.

My conclusion? America should stop demonizing Iran. And stop showing favouritism to Saudi Arabia. And stop rattling sabres at Iran – because if that particular rivalry escalates into a shooting war, the Americans will lose..